Nepal crisis far from over as Maoists refuse to form govt
Nepal's Maoists said yesterday they would not form the Himalayan nation's first post-royal government after the defeat of their candidate for president, setting off a new political crisis here.
The former rebels' decision, seen as a blow to Nepal's peace process, came one day after rival parties in a constitutional assembly ganged up against the Maoists to elect a president allied to the main centrist party.
"The party's central committee... decided not to form the government under our leadership," Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara told AFP.
Elections to the assembly in April gave the Maoists the largest single bloc of seats, but not an outright majority. The Maoists had insisted their choice of president should be elected and that they form a new government.
But a vote on Monday saw Ram Baran Yadav from the Nepali Congress party -- the Maoists' main rival -- anointed the country's first president.
"After the presidential election, it is certain that we do not have a majority. So we do not have any basis to form the next government," said Mahara.
The presidency is a largely ceremonial position, but the Maoists have argued that Yadav's victory would give them little room to manoeuvre should they form a government, and little chance of implementing key platform pledges like radical land reform.
The Maoist spokesman however added that the "door to talks with other parties is still open."
Arjun Narsingh Khatri Chhetri, spokesman for the Nepali Congress party, told AFP the presidential vote had been a wake-up call for the Maoists.
"They wanted to divide the political parties and rule alone. Now they have to respect and be committed to democratic norms, values and processes," Chhetri said. "They can't have everything their way."
The Maoists' continued involvement in mainstream politics is seen as crucial to the survival of Nepal's two-year-old peace process, which ended a decade-long rebel uprising that killed at least 13,000 people.
"The Maoists' decision to stay in opposition is a setback for the peace process. There will be complications if the Maoists stick to their decision," explained Gunaraj Luitel, editor of Nepal's Kantipur daily newspaper.
It was also not immediately clear if the other parties could cobble together their own alliance and pull Nepal out of the political vacuum that followed the abolition of the 240-year-old monarchy on May 28.
Lok Raj Baral, political science professor at Nepal's Tribhuvan University, said the other parties "have to bring the Maoists into the government at any cost in order to keep the peace process on track."
"All political parties are equally responsible for the political mess as they were unable to trust each other," said Baral.
"They must now understand that there is no alternative to politics of consensus.
Chettri insisted the Nepali Congress party was still committed to working with the Maoists but nonetheless issued a stern warning to them.
"They are the biggest party and we don't disrespect that," he said.
"But one has to remember even god has an alternative. If worst comes to worst, we will find an alternative to Maoist government.”